The deputy director of President Bush's drug-control office resigned to explore a run for the Senate in place of Jack Ryan, the Republican nominee in Illinois who dropped out over sex-club allegations, the Associated Press reported.
Andrea Grubb Barthwell, a physician from Chicago, had been deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington since 2002, focusing on reducing demand for recreational drugs.
The drug-control office announced her resignation in a statement. Supporters Michael Barnes, a Virginia lawyer, and John Fluharty, a Washington lobbyist and adviser to Barthwell, said she was leaving to explore a run for the Senate from Illinois.
Federal law barred her from seeking the Republican nomination while she worked for the government.
Barthwell is a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School and served residencies in anesthesiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and in otholaryngology and general surgery at University of Chicago Hospitals, according to American Medical Association records.
If Barthwell were chosen to face off against Democrat Barack Obama, it would be the first time in U.S. history that two black candidates have battled for a Senate seat.
Ryan, a millionaire investment banker-turned-teacher, abandoned the race two weeks ago in a furor over the release of divorce papers in which his ex-wife, "Boston Public" actress Jeri Ryan, said he took her to sex clubs and tried to get her to engage in sex acts with him in front of others.
The GOP has struggled to find a new candidate. People with the money or name recognition to be strong candidates have turned the party down.
Barthwell is an unknown even to most leaders of the state GOP.
"Who? Don't know her," U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois said Friday.